What a Military Intervention in Venezuela Would Look Like

“Precision strikes are often portrayed as a quick, cheap, safe, and effective alternative to a broader military intervention. But two U.S. precision strike operations—in Libya, in 2011, and in Yugoslavia, in 1999—underscore their unpredictable nature and their limited ability to shape political outcomes. In Libya, where the strikes lasted for seven months, the intervention achieved its narrow objective—the collapse of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime—but left the country in chaos. The three-month bombing campaign in Yugoslavia was more successful: It degraded the Yugoslav military’s ability to repress the population and helped lead to the establishment of a UN-monitored political framework, although that was a more limited goal than regime change.”

“There’s no such thing as risk-free military action. But in this case, the social, economic, and security costs of intervening far outweigh the benefits. Whether the United States launched limited air strikes or a full ground invasion, it would almost certainly get sucked in to a long, difficult campaign to stabilize Venezuela after the initial fighting was over. Such an engagement would cost American lives and money and hurt the United States’ standing in Latin America. An extended occupation would reignite anti-Americanism in the region, particularly if U.S. soldiers committed real or perceived abuses, and it would damage U.S. relations with countries outside the region, too. Finally, a war-weary American public is unlikely to stand for yet another extended military campaign.

The author is Frank O. Mora and the rest can be read at Foreign Affairs, found here.

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